Review: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Alas, emerges the final work of Hideo Kojima. His last Metal Gear, the final episode supposed to enlighten the last gray areas of the saga, closing the loop by giving the series a different episode, with generous structure. A monster of a game which deserves its conclusion, a message to sobriety and the unprecedented generosity in the series. Although imperfect, but a worship of a title that will stand the test of time.
GTA, Zelda and the Final Fantasy saga … few franchises have made an impact in the life of players for years. The Metal Gear sage is no different. With its consummate art of teasing, Hideo Kojima knew exactly how to turn up the heat until the perfect boiling point. But he had never been this far with Metal Gear Solid V, and the announcement of Phantom Pain via the fake Moby Dick Studio. Some people like that kind of ruse, others consider it trivial or even annoying. Personally, I consider it an absolute component of a good experience Metal Gear. After all, the “game” began well before the game’s release.
Neverthelless, sometimes with that much hype and expectation can give birth to a relative disappointment. I was disapointed when I played Metal Gear Solid 4, 7 years ago. So what about the long-awaited final chapter? Did Hideo Kojima and his team manage to avoid the pitfalls of the previous game? To be honest, during the 40 hours I played for this review, I experienced all sorts of emotions.
And that’s why, like a passionate love story, if Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain annoyed me in instances, and the next moment I madly loved the game. I hesitated, but now looking back, there was one dominant emotion: the deep pleasure of having lived a unique experience, achieved in the best way. I lived more than two decades with Snake, and it ends today. An era that we will forever remember.
I lived more than two decades with Snake, and it ends today. An era that we will forever remember.
Afghanistan and Angola, are the two main areas that make up the colossal Phantom Pain playground. Two region with their own climate and distinct style: Arid and angular Afghan mountains or the wet and dense planes of Africa. By deciding to go even further than Peace Walker and redefining the gameplay of the series, Hideo Kojima took the risk of losing players. Because yes, it is quite another Metal Gear. Sort of a cross with other open world titles like Rockstar Games’ amazing Red Dead Redemption.
From the opening of the story to the mission structure, linear appearance vanishes and the gameplay takes a unique place in the series. Here undoubtedly the stealth game offers a mass amount of opportunities, angles of attack and tools to develop your best assaults or infiltration.
After dozens of hours of playing the game and experimentation, I’m still amazed at the progress of some situations. Freedom is nothing of an illusion and having fun with enemies and their behaviors is one of the biggest pleasures.. You’ll walk, run and gallop a lot. And when I say a lot, I mean … tremendously! The game does not grab you by the hand and guide you, as it throws you on the field of operation and asks you to improvise. The opportunity to be dropping new equipment and review your strategy along the way. One of the most enjoyable aspects remain the undisputed fact that the path is not marked. There is not “real” way to finish a mission, or an obvious visual indicators for a path. No, there’s a need to observe and plan, all mixed with a share amount of improvisation. Consistently, organic, MGS V is a theater in which each player will try to find his role, his way of being a hero.
So let’s start with the technical aspect of the game, shall we? On Xbox One (the only version I’ve tested), some popping effects (mainly vegetation) were present, and a few frame drop crashes in certain demanding lighting instances, like during lighting storms, or sandstorms. When it comes to AI, there’s some smart technology, but some are quite hilarious. Although enemy movement seems more rigorous and interesting, with meticulous rounds and reactions to your actions, the AI can sometimes make some amazing actions like approaching 2 meters away from you and not see you. But without exaggeration, in the 40+ hours of play and thousands of confrontations, I saw fewer than a dozen of these cases fortunately.
But what I really will praise, is the adaptive AI in the game, which changes depending on your strategies. For example in my early missions in the game, I abused the use of tranquilize gun headshots and playing at night, which got my enemy adapt to my strategy, starting to equip helmets and nightvision goggles which forced me to switch my game plan. It’s a very smart thing to add in such a massive game, as it destroys any sort of exploit and flaws that a player can take advantage of, making the game even more challenging and adds this element of surprise.
What I really will praise, is the adaptive AI in the game, which changes depending on your strategies
Another downside: I am absolutely not a fan of the appearance of the cast at the beginning of each mission. I understand that Hideo Kojima is a big fan of the movie and TV industry, but this simply tends to spoil character reveal, allies as enemies, that you’ll meet a few minutes later in a cutscene. It basically ruins the element of surprise. I found a basic but clear solution: do not look at the screen for 15 seconds at the begining of a mission…
I should also note that the succession of assignments can be a fairly repetitive at moments with a fairly limited number of types of objectives (extraction, destruction, assasination or collecting information). But it is possible to break this alternately with side missions, and the active management of the “Mother Base” (a true RPG influenced system at the heart of the game), and listening to critical audio dialogues between Snake and his compatriotes taped on old-school cassettes. Your assessment of the game will come in part on your ability to accept this new approach. The goal here was to offer players the ultimate sandbox and a transcended gameplay.
The RPG aspect of the game also develop more intensely later on, even requiring you to “fultonr” recover resources to produce adequate facilities, expand the base platform, personel and more… in short, make your Mother Base will soon become a lively and functional place, and a source of improvement for your gear. Clearly, I alternated between excitement and frustration … before slowly but surely reach a dizzying harmony of the overall experience, when I ended up achieving incredible depth and control all the workings. This is where it all really begins.
Despite all that has been said above, the overall game strikes as a feat of moden graphical advancement, powered by a steady 1080p and 60 frames per second constant rate. The sensation is actually noticeable in the scenery, with a climax when you reach the inevitable encounter with the Metal Gear Sahelanthropus, which is to my opinion, one of the classiest Metal Gear of the saga. The immersion is pretty crazy and subtlety of certain lighting effect even offer photorealistic effects to various scenery. All of this is of course topped with a very powerful soundtrack highlighting key scenes. But I would advise everyone at launch to play the game without being connected to the game server, as it dramatically adds 30% more loading time, to fetch data from the servers, which seems rather unstable. Hopefully an upcoming patch will solve this issue.
The evolution of the power conflict between Ocelot, Miller and Boss is captivating and beautifully written.
Kojima has mastered his beloved storyline. Emphasized by the absolutely remarkable acting, the story heroes are consistent, ring true, and literally stink masterclass. The evolution of the power conflict between Ocelot, Miller and Boss is captivating and beautifully written. Only Quiet may be a little underutilized, but that’s ok. Instead your other teammates or buddies (D-Dog-Walker and D-Horse) also allows to focus, customize, build relationships that make their presence on the battlefield bring a real plus. Not to mention the beneficial and tactical aid they provide such as sniffing out enemies or helping you travel long distance.
To truly take full expierence of the story of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, it impossible to forget the audio cassettes, replacing the iconic codec feature of previous games. Without listening to them, you’ll miss out on 50% of the narrative experience and a number of startling revelations. The spirit of the Metal Gear saga with these long documented conversations have not disappeared … They were just transferred into cassetes with dramatic dialogues that can sometimes take 15 minutes to conculde. Those who are only there to overshadow the gameplay can disregard them, but for the fans, everything is there, with nice surprises waiting to be revealed.
Resolutely hard, violent and scathing, the topics covered by Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain find themselves in the pantheon of cult scenes of the saga. You’ll be shocked, breathless with what you have seen or played. And I’m not talking about the crazy prologue. And then there is the end, the closure. One that helps close the loop that brings you back to 30 years together with Snake and its clones. For
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain has all the ingredients of a a perfect game, with timeless characters, and redefine the genre into a worship, that mark a player’s life. While some prefer to concentrate on its imperfections, like the AI and small graphical tears, all is forgotten in the finale. Hideo Kojima as a creator, has created a masterpiece, one last dance with his fans, a simple and evocative message of astonishing accuracy that sounds before the final credits.
It may be the last time I write about Metal Gear, and I confess my emotion. Back in 1998, Metal Gear Solid on the original PlayStation was my first shock in the videogame world. Back then, I never was so passionately immersed in the genesis of the series. With Metal Gear, I experienced intense moments. I was blown away by the mastery of Metal Gear Solid 2, moved to tears by the conclusion of Metal Gear Solid 3, frustrated by the cumbersome Metal Gear Solid 4, as well as seduced by the audacity of Peace Walker. Today at the time I conclude this critique of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, so many memories, tunes, surprises, irritations, joy, and other emotions rise to the surface. I had to see how Kojima turned the final page in what I consider his work biography, and I assure you, without the level of quality of the ending, without making the connection with the whole saga, this review wouldn’t be the same.
to Hideo Kojima and his development team, I salute you and bid you adieu
There are games that leave a trace beyond their playful qualities. There are experiences that mark your life. In my eyes, there is definitely Metal Gear Solid and the rest of the gaming franchise. Hideo Kojima and other creators. Although imperfect, but generous, bold, deep, stellar and unique, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is nothing but a devotion to greatness and its army of fans. And for that, to Hideo Kojima and his development team, I salute you and bid you adieu.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain was reviewed using an Xbox One retail copy of the game purchased by the writer. The game is also available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC in both retail and online store releases. The review does not include Metal Gear Online as this part of the game won’t be available until later time this year. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published (click here for more information about our review policy).
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• The ultimate sandbox for fans of Stealth.
• A dizzying content.
• A coherent and open-world gargantuan.
• Complete freedom of action.
• That adaptive AI is just genius
• K7 and exciting final (the AMS).
• Kojima explodes again the fourth wall.
• A bit of repetition in certain objectives.
• A disconcerting narrative construction.
• Pre-Mission spoilant generic stakeholders.
• Little bit of frame drops and vegetation screen tears.
An accomplished, award-winning gaming professional with more than 12 years of experience in the videogame industry, Nazih Fares has worked in public relations, marketing, eSports and localization for over 14 different publishers and more than 90 global brands. Fares is currently MENA Communications Manager at Blizzard Entertainment, based in The Hague. His views on this site are his own, and not those of his employer.
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